Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Authority Part 2

I started the whole series with a picture of a night when my father was arrested for violence against our family. In that picture from my life were three concepts of authority.

First was parental authority. For a great majority of us, we understand authority from what we know firsthand growing up.

Second, the police in that picture are a symbol of earthly authority in the form of government.

The chaotic, angry behavior of my dad despite his authority illustrates the Fall of man into sin; the rebellion against God is a rejection of His authority. Understanding this turn of an earthly authority toward that which is not of God is a dynamic that must be sorted out.

In the next installment of the story I related joining a Methodist church as a teenager. I meet and begin to be influenced by ecclesiastical authority.

Taken together then, the memoir begins with four expressions of authority. Authority exists on earth which is ordained by God. These are are parental, governmental, ecclesiastic, and an anti-authority expression which is the rebellion against God. This reverse or negative authority is part of our natural human experience and needs consideration in understanding the other three.

What do you think? Are there other natural authority structures shaping our lives which you think should be part of the analysis?


Jimazing said...

My first thought is a question. Where does authority come from? Some authority structures, such as two that you mentioned; parental and legal, are "sanctioned" by our societal structures. Some, (maybe the same two are again good examples), are created by sheer power one over another i.e. "I am bigger and stronger than you..."

This may be way out in left field, but I'll share it because you asked and it is on my mind. It is difficult to articulate what I am thinking of, but it is kind of an authority imposed from the bottom up. One person submits to another when there is no apparent reason for it. I'm thinking of a codependent relationship. In this case the term authority might not completely fit, but then again... The dependent person acts as if they have no choices in the matter. This behavior reminds me of a submissiveness when confronted by someone in a position of authority. You won't hurt my feelings if this doesn't fit in your series ;)

ded said...

How quickly you cut to the chase!! I am seeking to create a big picture framework on which we might observe all expressions of authority from a spiritual plane. From that observation post on authority, the rebellion against it, and the apparent lack of it which you categorize may be seen as logically occurring as inter-connected within the framework.

Amazing, jimazing, that you would bring up choice in the discussion! The word in the NT which becomes translated "authority" most often is exousia. It has four meanings. The first is "power of choice."

Also, I would submit ecclesiastical authority as we often experience it is sanctioned by society as well. Therein lies many of our spiritual problems.

craig v. said...

There's also an authority that comes from a person's life being so true (genuine, real, authentic) that others are drawn to follow it.

ded said...

Ah yes, Craig! The other end of the pole from Jim's codependent person with no authority.

Did this occur to you reading Jim's comment or is this a reality you have identified before on the topic of authority? I am just curious.

I wonder if the spectrum of personal authority fits reasonably under "parental", since parenting, first natural and then spiritually from God, accounts for what we live as our personal authority or would it make more sense to make the first category "personal" with sub-headings of different categories such a "parental"?

Your thoughts?

I am so thankful you add your insights here!!

craig v. said...

Jim sparked the thought. It's parallel to something I've been thinking about a lot lately, the whole notion of truth being about life and not simply about beliefs. The interesting thing, to me, is that this kind of authority isn't external. When authority is external there's always the possibility of a disconnect between the external and the internal. A president can misuse his or her power.

Chip said...

Another aspect of your story is that you were employed - to some extent - by your ecclesiastical authority. So from one source you were under two variants of authority.
The other night I was observing the young associate pastor at the Baptist church I sang at as he interacted with the primary pastor. I wondered how awkward it might be to be "pastored" by a guy who can fire you and disrupt your means of providing for your family.
I believe you may have touched on that in your memoir - I can't remember for sure.
So, in response to your question regarding "other natural authority structures shaping our lives", is the authority of employer another part of the equation, or is that a part of governmental authority?

ded said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ded said...


If there can be a disconnect, would that apply to personal authority, as well? I would think so. I think I have been there. The disconnect reduces the authenticity of the believer and thereby his/her authority. I have been planning to make this a part of the final analysis, and here you are again foreseeing where I am going.

I begin to think me brother is a prophet!


I thought of business authority today, also. I think the category is government/business. Before the age of revolutions to over throw monarchies, kings and their authority drove commerce. The burgeoning middle class of the years prior to revolutions were functioning under the king's authority. The development of the world system has been an evolution away from monarchical rule toward democracy, but the harnessing of the power of the masses to produce has been the chief end of both monarchies and democracies. After all, taxes are more profitable when then masses are amassing money.

craig v. said...

The way I see it, it's the lack of a disconnect that gives personal authority its power. A bad president is still a president. A bad parent is still a parent. A double minded person, however, lacks personal authority. It can't be faked (though the codependent example Jim gives is an attempt at having the authority without the reality).

ded said...

I don't think I get what you are saying. I mean understand the words, but I don't get the connection between a disconnect and authority in a person.

What am I missing?

craig v. said...

By connection I mean the relationship between the person and truth. An evil parent, for example is a parent externally but what he or she is internally doesn't match the external. We might say such a parent is a false parent. That's what I mean by disconnected. It's what the Bible calls double minded. The person with personal authority is single minded. The internal matches the external. Hope that helps a little. I'm still thinking this through. The key thing is that the authority I'm trying to describe is in the truth or genuineness of the person. I follow because his or her life has weight.

ded said...

Got it. I agree.

I've always had trouble processing negatives. Your "lack of disconnect" is the same as having a connect. While I focused on that meaning, knowing a not-not usually knotted me, I kept reading. I then missed that the three examples were two of and one of not. Thus, a bad parent or president may still have a personal connection that supports their personal authority. The double-minded person is different.

You said, The person with personal authority is single-minded. The internal matches the internal. And so you describe a major component of the whole end of this series!

We need an expression of authority within the body of Christ that supports the growth of more Christians toward maturity, which is the harmony of the inside with the outside and results in increased personal authority.

I don't think this is a new revelation, but I do believe a shift is required. A shift you have often held up to me, and about which I have had to think carefully: the community of believers as an experience the individual must know.

Carey said...

Your discussion has led to an appreciation for this quality (as observed by Craig) "the truth or genuineness of the person. I follow because his or her life has weight."

This is true leadership, and this is what the world needs. And yes, this is what authority is all about. So the question becomes, I suppose, where do we find it? Jesus Christ? Yes, certainly, we know that and we affirm that truth. Beyond that? How about...oh, Jimmy Carter? as a role model. (Same initials.)

ded said...

Where do we find it?

I have pondered the question long, and think the answer is a bit like an algebra problem we must work out.

I hope to finish this is two to three more posts. The insights and wisdom in the Lord of the resident readers is something I look forward to hearing.